Local governments are closest to the people’s everyday needs and problems and they are the primary interface between citizens and elected representatives, and as such they represent a major opportunity for trust-building and participatory decision-making.

Local governments are not protected from state capture and abuse of power, such as petty or grand corruption. In fact, municipalities can be particularly vulnerable to corruption due to their tight networks of power and their central role in delivering basic services.

Most often, bribes are paid to local governments in exchange for construction permits, business licenses, land registration, social welfare benefits, or simply in exchange for getting a job or winning a business contract with the local government.

Integrity violations include, without being limited to:

  • Conflict of interest

  • Fraud and Theft

  • Embezzlement

  • Extortion

  • Corruption

  • Misuse and Manipulation of Information

  • Incompatible Functions

  • Improper use of Authority

  • Favouritism

  • Nepotism

  • Waste and Abuse of Resources

  • Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

  • Working time misconduct

Though hard evidence is often scarce, it is clear that corruption in local government exists. This is because there are numerous factors contributing to opportunities for corruption.

Factors to affect opportunities for corruption include:

  • Decentralisation multiplies opportunities for corruption due to increased portfolio of functions and responsibilities.

  • Volume of transactions and dispersed control over finances heighten the potential for abusive practices, including budget fraud.

  • High levels of bureaucracy and considerable discretionary powers and monopoly over public services.

  • Complexity and multiplicity of transactions increase the potential for abusive practices.

  • Proximity to clients at service delivery.

  • Influence from patronage networks provides a rich backdrop for corruption pressure.

  • Favouritism and nepotism at local level might influence decisions on human resources.

  • The proximity to local stakeholders leads to greater interaction between local officials and businesses, which might subvert fair procurement procedures.

  • Potential shortage of competent staff to carry out highly specialized tasks might cause underperformance.

  • Oversight by external stakeholders may prove weak due to capacity limitations and the existence of local patronage networks.